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Confessions of a Bridal Industry Newbie

As I opened the door to Suite 200 for the first time, I felt like I was entering a beautiful alternate universe. Natural light came pouring from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the Atelier which reflected off the sea of white gowns hanging on racks that seemed to go on endlessly. Wearing my pants from Old Navy and a clearance sweater, I walked into Barbara’s office for my interview intimidated by the most beautiful pieces of clothing I’ve ever seen.


By some stroke of luck or possibly fate (I haven’t decided if I actually believe in that yet), I was asked to join the Barbara Kavchok team as a Social Media and Marketing Coordinator. My first thought, I know nothing about the bridal industry or even the fashion industry in general. The education I have is limited to my love of the first few seasons of America’s Next Top Model and leafing through the issues of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar delivered monthly to my house. I’ve probably been to about three weddings in my entire life, twice as a child, so that experience was minimal as well. However, my inner suppressed girly-girl and post-art school self couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work in such a cool industry at a female-owned and run business. I just had to get over the intimidation I felt from these gorgeous gowns staring me down.


Fast forward to my first week at the Atelier/Workroom, I was learning the processes of some administrative work when I saw Barbara walk by with arms full of artificial flowers. Flowers to decorate the workroom? Odd I thought, but maybe this is just part of working in the bridal industry? Later, I ventured over to one of our seamstresses, Cassidy, who was permanently stationed in the corner at one of our cut tables. She hovered over a huge piece of silky-white ruched taffeta (I found out the name of the fabric later, I’m still going through my fabrics crash course) and was hand-sewing each flower individually to it. Barbara walked over and took her seat at the other side of the table and was doing the same. Confused, and also in complete awe, I asked what this was. “Oh, this is one panel of a gown I’m creating,” Barbara said casually as if I asked what the weather was like outside or what day of the week it was.


I knew Barbara had created unconventional wedding pieces before, but this didn’t seem to fit in that category. What kind of industry did I get myself into? I knew nothing of this trend! Are brides wearing actual floral gowns these days?


Well, maybe it’s a market that could definitely be served by us, but I quickly found out that Barbara had been asked to create a collection for a solo exhibit at the Banana Factory Arts Center in Southside Bethlehem slated for 2023. The Floral Gown, our working title, will be one of twelve gowns to be showcased at the exhibit.


It makes sense because this gown truly is a piece of art. In the time that I’ve been working for the team, I have watched this gown be assembled stitch-by-stitch; petal by petal (literally, a lot of the flowers were made by sewing fabric “petals” together). Witnessing the process of something so extraordinary being crafted from nothing is inspiring. It was then that I realized I’m not simply working in the bridal industry; I’m working in the art industry.


As a child, I was totally the Barbie/dress-up/high-maintenance type, much to my mother’s dismay. However, in my adult years I’ve never been one to shop high-end anything and I still have to watch YouTube tutorials to figure out how to apply my drugstore makeup. Maybe it’s because I don’t really know what it feels like to indulge in luxurious things; who knows? I enjoy the fashion industry and find it intriguing, plus I’ve been involved in the arts my entire life so I have a deep appreciation for all things creative. But alas, designer/couture clothing is something I never would imagine wearing and luxury is a concept I never really had desired to explore. When I picture my future wedding, it’s a simple courthouse wedding followed by an intimate backyard party in a dress that I probably thrifted (please don’t tell Barbara or Eugenia this, they might be upset).


So when Barbara asked me to “model” the dress for social media purposes, I was excited to see what it would be like to wear one of these couture gowns and play dress-up for an afternoon. Carefully I stepped into the gown and pulled the shirred bodice up, slipping my arms into the off-the-shoulder sleeves. Barbara zipped me up and I stood there in the mirror staring at someone I didn’t recognize. The sweetheart neckline perfectly framed my chest, the ruched bodice cinched my waistline, and the skirt bloomed into the most elegant, floral train. It was luxurious in an avant-garde way, a pure expression of creativity, and it was on MY body. It was then that I finally understood why Barbara creates the gowns she does and why brides seek her out to design their gowns. I finally understood what Barbara meant when she said she creates wearable art. More importantly, I now know what wearable art FEELS like.


You may be wondering if working with Barbara has converted me from my simple ways; if I’ve trashed the idea of my courthouse wedding and Goodwill gown or have started to indulge in luxury items. Time will only tell, but all I know for now is that I can’t wait to try on more gowns.


-Cora





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